With all the talk about balance in our lives, it’s no wonder we can feel out of kilter at times. Media headlines encourage us to examine our priorities. Jobs demand more of us. And then there’s the tug of family. Not to mention community involvement.
Let’s face it. A lot of you likely feel you could use more time. So why do you keep spending more time on things that don’t yield results and less time on things that do?
There’s actually a scientific theory that explains this. You may not have heard the official name — the Pareto Principle — but I bet you’ve heard of the 80/20 Rule.
The 80/20 Rule states the relationship between input and output is rarely, if ever, balanced. When applied to work — and extended to life — it means about 20 percent of your efforts produce 80 percent of your results. Here are some real-world examples of the Pareto Principle in the workplace:
n 80 percent of your complaints are generated by 20 percent of your clients.
n 80 percent of your profit comes from 20 percent of your clients.
n 80 percent of any project is completed during 20 percent of the time schedule. The last 20 percent always takes much longer.
n 80 percent of the work in your organization is delivered by 20 percent of your employees.
This reminds me of the urgent vs. important grids that illustrate how many of us respond to urgent requests, even if they’re not really the important things. You may even be tempted to do the B and C tasks rather than the A tasks because they’re faster and easier to cross off your list.
This can give you a temporary sense of accomplishment in the short term. In the long run, though, those ever-important A-list items continue to mount. And the temporary glow you felt from crossing off a minor task wanes.
I’ve found A items are often put off because they’re major things that seem so daunting. Here’s a quick tip: Chunk down the big goal into small steps and cross them off one at a time.
The A item may need to be carried into multiple days, although you’ll still be making progress every day. This results in the best of both worlds — that temporary glow of short-term accomplishment and the satisfaction of getting closer to your overall goals.
Of all the things you do, it may be disheartening to think only 20 percent of them really matter. While this is a convenient theory — and an eye-opener — I believe it’s meant to be a tool, rather than an absolute life principle.
“When the fire drills of the day begin to sap your time,” said John Reh, a management consultant, “remind yourself of the 20 percent you need to focus on. If something in the schedule has to slip, make sure it’s not part of that 20 percent.”
Which reminds me of the theory of glass balls. The premise is that we’re all juggling lots of balls all the time. Some balls, when dropped, bounce back. Others don’t.
When you let one of the most important things — a glass ball — drop, you may get a wakeup call.
If you have five things to accomplish today, the 80/20 Rule states only one will be vitally important — the other four, not so much.
Following are a few examples, developed by business consultant Bryan Eisenberg, to consider the Pareto Principle in action in the business world:
n Do 20 percent of your products account for 80 percent of your product sales?
n Does 80 percent of employee absenteeism come from 20 percent of your employees?
n Does 20 percent of your workforce produce 80 percent of your revenues?
And here are some examples of the Pareto Principle in action from a personal perspective. You’re in the 80-percent realm if the following statements ring true:
n You’re working on tasks other people want you to, but they’re not furthering your individual goals.
n You feel overwhelmed.
n You’re spending time on tasks you’re not usually good at doing.
n Activities are taking a lot longer than you expected.
n You find yourself complaining more than usual.
You’re in your 20 percent realm if:
n You’re engaged in activities that advance your overall goals and purpose.
n You’re doing things that make you feel good about yourself and your professional and personal contributions to the world.
n You’re working on tasks you don’t like, but you’re doing them knowing they relate to the big picture.
n You’re delegating tasks that are difficult for you to others.
n You’re smiling.
But I still have to do it
E-mail. Phone calls. Meetings. Car pool. Errands. Grocery shopping. Just stop and take inventory of how you’re doing these things. Can you group activities together, delegate or cut down the amount of time you’re spending?
Here are some good nuggets gleaned from a blog on the Results Junkies website:
n List unproductive activities and eliminate them or greatly scale back. Be ruthless. Say no to those things that are robbing you of your time and your life.
n Spend most of your time on your most important relationships. Only a small portion of our relationships give us the most value — generally those with whom we have a strong emotional bond (spouse, family and a few close friends). Do yourself a favor and spend the majority of your time nurturing these relationships.
n Create more memorable moments in your relationships. There are likely only a small number of peak experiences that give you unforgettable memories. Focus on making more of these.
Here’s to getting into action and raising that 20-percent threshold. As Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
©2017 Linda Arnold Live Life Fully, all rights reserved. Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and Founder of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on her books, “Teach People How to Treat You” and “Push Your Own Buttons,” go to www.lindaarnold.org or Amazon.com.